Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Red Eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans

I haven't been alive long enough to remember the grass green, quarter sized turtles that used to be sold at "five and dime stores." Larger juvenile and adult sizes of these turtles are still sold today at pet shops. Over the years, thousands if not millions have been released into the wild, and almost everywhere I go, I see a red eared slider. In Ohio, it is thought that we may have had some northern populations disjunct from its typical native North American range in the Mississippi River system, but now, you can see them in many lakes and rivers across the state. Other countries, and some states, like California, consider them an invasive species. I've not read anything that suggests they are reproducing in Ohio, or if they are outcompeting native species for food and basking spots, but they are definitely present here in central Ohio.

I was inspired to do this writeup after seeing a dozen or so sliders in Manhattan's Morningside park, then this past Saturday, I observed and photographed a large individual in the Olentangy River. Then on Sunday, Megan I saw another slider at Slate Run Metropark.

Manhattan is a long way away from the Mississippi drainage, but this pond at Morningside Park was full of red eared sliders

A loner.

Stacked up on a log

Looking for handout?

Why are people worried about this turtle in other countries? Well, they can outcompete native species for both food and basking spots. Here we have a native common map turtle and the red-eared slider in the Olentangy from this past Saturday.

And here is yet another slider from Slate Run Metropark, just south of Columbus. I'm guessing this one was "dumped" into this small pond, just off the parking lot, by someone that just didn't want the hassle of keeping a pet turtle. The giveaway is its shell. When turtles are raised in the wild, their shells grow very smoothly and don't have any "pyramiding" on their shell. Look closely at this turtle's shell, and you can see how each scute (section of the shell) is raised somewhat.

I guess the point here is to really think hard before you consider purchasing a red eared slider as a pet. There are plenty out there to adopt, and please, don't release these animals into the wild. They are now considered an invasive species in Europe, Asia, and Australia!


  1. Great post, Tom! I've seen plenty of Red-eareds out there- but I did not know that they are considered invasive in some other countries.

    Interesting about the shells being different on captive raised animals. Is that true of all turtle species?

    Weedpicker Cheryl

  2. Thanks Cheryl. Red-ears may be considered invasive in Ohio too someday. We'll see. The real question is the ones that we see are reproducing, or if they are just released pets. There are some tortoises like the Indian Star Tortoises that have bumpy pyramid like shells, but a healthy, wild raised turtle typically has a very smooth, gently curved shell. I'm not sure how to link to photos here, but check out Dr. Tabaka's page about turtle pyramiding here:

  3. I've seen red-eared sliders here in Cleveland, five together in the Metroparks--could they have survived our winter?

    I have a 10-yr-old slider and wonder about her future...I'm almost 60 and she could outlive me! What should people do with turtles when they get too big for a home tank?